ST. PAUL – A bill Rep. Steve Green, R-Fosston, authored to criminalize the act of misrepresenting pets as service animals received overwhelming final approval from the Minnesota House on Wednesday.
Green said this kind of misrepresentation has been a growing problem, causing dangerous situations in public and also damaging the reputation of legitimate service animals. The legislation he authored makes impersonating a service animal a petty misdemeanor for the first offense and a misdemeanor for any subsequent offense.
“It is disappointing that some bad actors, for whatever reason, have put innocent people and pets in harm’s way by introducing family pets to environments they are not accustomed to and may not be trained to handle,” Green said. “My real hope is this bill will help raise public awareness and cause people to stop and think so citations never even have to be issued.”
The bill (H.F. 3157) also clarifies that, by definition, a service animal is a dog and that companion animals are not covered through this legislation.
A conference committee made slight alterations to reconcile differences between Green’s bill and the companion authored by Sen. Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids. One provision that was retained adds liability protection for property owners.
The bill, which passed the House 125-1, is now in the hands of Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature. If enacted, Minnesota would join a list of 20 states that have passed similar laws.